Tree ID: Learning to Identify Trees

Learning to identify trees can be an easy task, once there is an understanding of their individual characteristics, such as leaves and fruit. There are two divisions of trees, the deciduous, which lose their leaves seasonally, and the coniferous, which remain green all year round. Both equally perform their functions in much the same way. However, each category shares common features distinguishing them from each other. Through study and practice, the basics about these trees are learned. 

Deciduous trees generally produce large, wide leaves. A wider leaf surface makes deciduous tree leaves very fragile so they cannot withstand cold temperatures. This is one reason why they shed their leaves during the cooler autumn months preceding winter. Another reason for this is drought. These types of trees drop their leaves to avoid dehydrating when there is a shortage of ground water. Many deciduous trees bear edible, juicy fruit, as apple, peach and pear. Others, such as the pecan, oak or hickory trees bear nuts. Deciduous trees grow all over the world, thriving in climates that have a wide variation in seasonal temperatures. Their wood is very hard, making it a sought-after resource in building material. Many well-known trees of this type include all varieties of maple, oak, ash and birch, among others.

Coniferous trees differ in many ways from its deciduous counterparts. The conifers have  scale-like leaves or needles, which stay green year round. Although some coniferous trees drop their older needles yearly, they renew them continually. Coniferous trees bear cones, which are actually shell-less seeds. They thrive in cooler climates due to their thick sap, which enables them to survive for long periods without groundwater. Most conifers are softwoods, although a few species produce much harder woods. Also known as evergreens, commonly found coniferous trees include firs, pines, cedars and hemlocks. 

Despite their differences, conifers and deciduous trees have a few similarities. Both make their food and produce oxygen through photosynthesis. Our planet depends on this process to survive. In addition, both types of trees provide many materials for products such as wood and paper. Trees play an important role in our ecosystems as well as economy.

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Tree Identification Resources and Lessons for Teachers

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